Palestinian organisations in Jerusalem will close all the mosques in the city during Eid Al-Adha in a bid to protect the city's Al-Aqsa Mosque from planned raids by illegal Israeli settlers.
Eid Al-Adha – an Islamic holiday celebrated every year during Hajj – will take place this weekend, this year coinciding with the Jewish festival of Tisha B'Av. Earlier this week, extremist groups which advocate rebuilding the ancient Jewish Temple called for storming Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and conducting Jewish prayers at the site, both to mark Tisha B'Av and disrupt Eid rituals.
Now Palestinians have announced that they will close all mosques across the city, only allowing Eid prayers to take place at Al-Aqsa in a bid to protect the site.
This came in a statement signed by prominent Islamic figures in Jerusalem, including the head of the Islamic Supreme Council, Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, President of the Council of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs and Holy Sites, Sheikh Abdul Azim Salhab, and the Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine Sheikh Mohammed Hussein.
The statement demanded that all imams announce the policy today during Friday prayers, adding that the people of Jerusalem would stand up against the settlers' plans to storm the holy site.
It also stressed that the step comes in response to an announcement by Israel Police that it would conduct an "assessment" of the situation at Al-Aqsa in the early hours of Eid to decide whether or not to allow Jews access to the compound.
Israeli incursions onto Al-Aqsa compound are a regular occurrence, despite the fact that Jews are forbidden from entering or praying at the site under the status quo agreement.
This week the Palestinian Authority (PA)'s Ministry of Religious Endowments revealed that Israeli forces carried out 75 violations of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Hebron's Ibrahimi Mosque last month alone.
The ministry also warned against the increasing length of incursions by illegal Israeli settlers, pointing to the example of one settler who performed Jewish rituals at the site, while several settlers attempted to do the same at the compound's Bab Al-Rahma (Golden Gate).
Bab Al-Rahma was the site of strict Israeli crackdowns on Palestinians in February, when the gate was opened to worshippers for the first time in over a decade. At the time, dozens of Palestinians were arrested, including national leaders and clerics such as Sheikh Salhab and his deputy, Najeh Bkerat.
In the first half of 2019, some 900 Palestinians have been arrested by Israeli authorities across Jerusalem. A spokesperson for the Palestinian Prisoners' Centre for Studies (PCHR) said that the arrests taking place in Jerusalem constitute one-third of the total arrests throughout the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), which reached 2,600 cases.
The centre stressed that the number of arrests indicates a clear targeting of Jerusalemites in order to deter them from protecting holy sites and defending Al-Aqsa Mosque.